Dr. Dog, Be The Void
Most effective when the instruments do the heavy lifting
After four albums and a moderate, but not life-changing, level of success, Philadelphia indie-pop crew Dr. Dog changed course on 2010′s Shame, Shame. They sought outside production help from Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith) and constructed noticeably toned-down and tauter melodic nuggets. Critical praise followed; a popularity increase did not. So for their sixth and most impressive turn to-date, the Brotherly Love oddballs – now recording on their own and with two new bandmembers, drummer Eric Slick and multi-instrumentalist Dimitri Manos – blast back to their bread-and-butter: raw riffs, sing-song harmonies and sonic experimentation filtered through 1960s-pop-tinted shades. Be the Void is bookended by two gems: Opener “Lonesome” swings with a pedal-steel guitar anchored bluesy strut and “Turning the Century” glides under the freaky sway of a twangy sitar. But “That Old Black Hole,” a quirky guitar riot of a single – and easily the album’s most rollicking cut – is a master class in parting with the put-on and getting back to basics. Lyrical inventiveness was never the Dog’s strength. So while singer/guitarist Scott McMicken waxes poetic on the inability to let go (“These Days”) and life’s temporary fulfillments (“Do the Trick”), this crew proves most effective when their instruments do the heavy lifting.